The Common Good

Click Here for Cupid

Sojomail - May 26, 2004

Quote of the Week Justified violence
Batteries Not Included David Batstone: Click here for Cupid
On the Ground Gaza Journal: Warning shots
By the Numbers Churches are off the hook
Politically Connect What's new in debt relief
Good News Philip Yancey debunks the doomsayers
Building a Movement No more deaths in the desert
Culture Watch Global warming makes it to the silver screen
Web Sitings Media matters | Do you know about DU? | Survivors' stories
Boomerang Readers write

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners
Get a free issue of Sojourners

Preaching the Word is an online resource for preparing sermons and scripture reflections based on the Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays. We've done the work so you don't have to. Go to:

Justified violence

"Intentions, of course, are always good. The worse the fight, the higher its justification. "Justified" violence is the worst. Unjustified violence bursts out of a bad character or bad feelings, but it doesn't go very far. But when people feel justified in the use of violence, it becomes systematic and leads to all the horrors of history." - Lanza del Vasto (1901-1981) was a poet, Christian mystic, and nonviolent activist.

Source: Fellowship Magazine, September 1975.

Click here for Cupid
by David Batstone

If you had three minutes to evaluate a candidate for romance, what would you say? How would you act?

That dilemma is no longer the province of fantasy for millions of online daters. Unless you know how to present yourself - or is that "package" yourself? - in a compelling way, and do so post-haste, you may be spending your Saturday evenings alone.

Once upon a time Internet dating was for the geeky and the seedy. Today it's gone mainstream. Last year 17.2 million people viewed online personals and 2.5 million actually paid for a self-promoting ad, according to Jupiter Research. A few heavily trafficked Web sites - notably and Yahoo Personals - draw the biggest slice of the lonely hearts club. But specialty sites - such as those catering to African Americans, Jewish Americans, and gays - also are becoming popular. (Perhaps Sojourners should start a dating service for faith-based activists?)

If you are cynical about the potential of online dating, consider the benefits. Why set aside a perfectly good evening only to find out that your date shows zero interest in spirituality and is a charter member of the NRA? Join an online dating service and you can establish up front what's most important in your life, as well as profile the qualities you're looking for in a companion. Maybe it seems a bit like buying a sweater out of a Lands' End catalog, but it's a terrific way to weed out non-compatibles.

In 1998 I created a cross-country ethics course, a class run simultaneously for students at the University of San Francisco and at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. I made extensive use of live Web broadcast and online postings in a format now touted as a blog. I required students to dialog with each other throughout the semester around selective moral dilemmas. Each time a student made a posting, that student had to not only express his or her own ideas, but also take into account the position(s) already posted on the blog.

A swarm of students - especially females - reported back to me how much they appreciated the online platform because it gave them confidence to express, and then defend, their point of view. In a conventional classroom, on the other hand, they often felt dominated. One of my African-American students added another twist: "I like the fact that other students have to judge me first on the basis of my ideas before they see the color of my skin."

MY FRIENDS who use online dating services tell me that they typically have lengthy e-mail exchanges with those "profiles" that interest them before meeting up in a F2F (face-to-face) date. (Full disclosure: I met my wife of 16 years in a halfway house for street kids where we were both volunteering.) Writing letters back and forth - that sounds like a healthy foundation for a relationship.

Online daters do not focus exclusively on character and values, of course. Personal photos are undeniably an influential element in the sifting process. Never underestimate the power of creative fiction. Online daters report that the people they meet often do not resemble their online photos, nor does their online persona always match real-life character.

Hence the genesis of "speed-dating," which brings otherwise online romancers together at a restaurant and arranges a series of three- to 10-minute mini-dates. At the end of the night, suitors designate whom they'd like to see again based on their short encounter and, if there's an expressed attraction by the other person, the wooing begins.

There's a lot to like about online dating, but it also brings to the surface what's awry with romance and relationship. We hold onto the perverse notion that finding the right companion - independent of the course that we are pursuing with our lives - will bring us happiness. That rarely happens. Companions can be wonderful journey partners, but are unfit destinations. The highway is littered with sacred unions that combust due to compatibility exhaustion.

It doesn't surprise me that the fire-bright enthusiasm that online daters experience early on - I have friends who arrange as many as four different dates in a weekend - so often flame out in a matter of months. The burden of choice and steady wave of expectations overwhelm them.

The Internet is a fabulous search tool and enables serendipitous connections. Yet we can comb a worldwide Web and never discover our own heart.

*This article was originally featured in Sojourners magazine

To read more commentary by David Batstone, go to:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9

Join the Sustainers Circle, Sojourners' monthly giving program, with a gift of $10 or more per month and you will receive a complimentary subscription to Sojourners magazine. Join online today at: or call 1-800-714-7474 and ask for donor relations.

Gaza Journal: Warning shots
by Ryan Beiler

GAZA, Palestine - Last week, the international community condemned Israel for the killing of unarmed demonstrators protesting the demolition of homes in Rafa refugee camp. The Israeli military claimed it was firing "warning shots" at the crowd, and that its operations in Rafa were necessary for Israeli security.

Before going to Rafa myself, I had my own experience of Israeli warning shots on Sunday while visiting Toufa refugee camp, a few kilometers north of Rafa in Khan Younis, Gaza. I was photographing the remains of Palestinian homes demolished by the Israeli military on the camp's western edge - guided by Ed Nyce, a peace development worker with Mennonite Central Committee, and Essam Matter and Moen El Shar, who work with one of MCC's partner organizations in Khan Younis. We had been surveying the damage there for maybe 15 minutes when a rapid series of loud cracks accompanied by the sting of flying concrete fragments told us we were under fire by the Israeli army post, which was separated from us to the west by several hundred meters of a sand and rubble no-man's-land.

Read more at:

Churches are off the hook

No human being could be reached during five attempted telephone calls during business hours to 1,870 of 3,400 randomly selected U.S. Protestant churches.

Phone rang without any response: 19%
A machine answered: 16%
Had either an answering machine or no answer at all: 20%

Source: The Barna Group


CharityAdvantage serves thousands of nonprofits through technology programs:

LAPTOPS!.........Laptops from $395
COMPUTERS!...Pentium II's from $149/Pentium III's from $279
COMPUTERS!...New Intel-powered from $399
MONITORS!.....Monitors from $49
MICROSOFT!.. Save up to 70% Office XP @ $129/Office XP Pro @ $149
WEB SITES!......Only $99 setup & $29 monthly for hosting/updates/tech support
DONATIONS!...American Nonprofit Technology Alliance

Visit us online at

What's new in debt relief
by Marie Clarke

In many cultures the 60th birthday provides a time to celebrate and reflect on one's life and accomplishments, and to give - often money - toward a better future. When it comes to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, this 60th birthday year is no time for a party. It is time, however, for the IMF and the World Bank to give of their own resources to cancel 100% of the debts of impoverished nations.

This was the message of people of faith and conscience who took to the streets during the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington, D.C. at the end of April. Full debt cancellation without harmful conditions was also the message on more than 11,000 "Unhappy Birthday" cards delivered to the World Bank prior to their meetings. Even Congress highlighted the issue in a hearing, and Representative Maxine Waters announced her intention to introduce legislation for 100% cancellation by the IMF of the debts of 50 extremely poor nations.

Read more at:


Peace Quest

Over 100 hands-on peacemaking activities! Perfect for camps, vacation church school, and summer programs. Special SojoMail sale - limited time, order now! Two books for $25 plus discounted shipping of $3.50. (Regular low price $15.50 each.)

Philip Yancey debunks the doomsayers

After receiving a particulary depressing e-mail of numbing poverty statistics, Christianity Today columnist Philip Yancey did some digging. After performing his own research, he found that despite the ever-present crush of violence and poverty in the world, there are still many concrete reasons for hope. Some positive developments since 1980:

*The world illiteracy rate has dropped from 53% to 20%
*The percentage of people suffering from malnutrition has dropped by more than half, to 20%.
*Only 25% used to have access to clean water; now, 75% have it.
*Global infant mortality has dropped from one in eight to half that proportion.

Yancey also notes that while for much of the last century theological liberals denounced conservative Christians for their lack of social conscience, evangelicals are finally catching a vision for justice as part of a holistic gospel, as organizations dedicated to that goal continue to multiply.

Read more at:

Read Sojourners' interview with Yancey, "Sex, lies, and life on the evangelical edge," at:


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.

No more deaths in the desert

Death season is fast approaching in Arizona. Since the U.S. began enforcing its blockade strategy in 1995 (called Operation Hold the Line), 2,600 Latin American migrants have died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Last year alone, the extreme desert conditions resulted in the deaths of 200 men, women, and children.

No More Deaths is a nonprofit coalition of faith groups, human rights activists, organizers, and concerned citizens who are working for justice along the border. Their strategies involve intervention with emergency aid resources, Samaritan patrols, and advocacy for migrant families.

This Memorial Day weekend (May 28-30) the coalition is hosting a multi-day, binational awareness event. Activities will include speakers, migrant testimonies, networking opportunities, marches and vigils, followed by a weeklong "walk for life" along the 75-mile migrant trail.

Summertime is a perilous season for migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. But by supporting or joining the efforts of No More Deaths, you can affirm their human rights and say "yes" to life - even in the desert.

To find out more about No More Deaths events, visit:

Global warming makes it to the silver screen

Move over Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins - a new film is soon to be out detailing global destruction after the fashion of the latest blockbuster apocalyptic fare. On May 28, Twentieth Century Fox is due to release The Day After Tomorrow - an action-filled movie that depicts what would happen if abrupt climate change occurred. It's not a pretty picture.

In the film, North America is wiped out by an ice age in just 96 hours - the result of a dramatic shift in ocean currents. Enter tornadoes, earthquakes, and prodigious hailstones, and the implications of environmental neglect are brought home vividly.

While The Day After Tomorrow certainly intends to entertain, The Worldwatch Institute hopes viewers will register the realities behind the drama. Following up on the release, the Institute has launched an online feature called "A Better Day After Tomorrow," offering fact sheets, contacts, links, and more.

To find out more, go to

Media matters

Media Matters for America monitors television, print, and radio outlets, serving as a watchdog against conservative misinformation and distortions by such favorites as Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and FOX News.

Do you know about DU?

It's no secret that depleted uranium (DU) ammunition has been used in Iraq, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. This multimedia project presents the graphic and disturbing effects DU has on those who come in contact with its radioactivity.

Survivors' stories

Compelling and disturbing images and stories of soldiers wounded in Iraq - many of whom wish they could return to combat:

Readers write

Linda Berard writes from Claremont, California:

Thank you for pointing to the moral overlap of abortion and war. I've never quite understood the difference between killing in the world and killing in the womb. Abortion by Tomahawk missiles, daisy cutters, and cluster bombs is forced mass abortion. If one can find profound sympathy for an embryo, how much more should we find for, say, an Iraqi family? Why aren't the peace rallies and marches crowded with pro-lifers?


Kevin Flatley writes:

What a sticky mess Bishop Sheridan creates with his ill-advised venture into partisan politics. In the recent Pennsylvania primary, "pro-life" Senator Santorum actively supported "pro-choice" Senator Specter in his campaign against "pro-life" challenger Toomey. I guess Bishop Sheridan wants Santorum and his supporters to refrain from communion along with supporters of Specter. Thinking like that makes me think that I'll be better off spiritually by avoiding the partisan politics of the Eucharist altogether.


John White writes from Coralville, Iowa:

I disagree with the premise that same-sex marriages ought to be supported and embraced by the Christian community as a matter of baptismal unity. The heritage of baptism calls us to turn away from the world's values and turn toward the values of the kingdom. Those values, in my reading of scripture, show homosexual practice as contrary to God's will, though love for the sinner is genuine and strong. Please don't confuse the issue. Baptismal obedience must go hand in hand with baptismal unity.


James Ferguson writes from Sydney, Australia:

Regarding your P.O.V. column, it is vital that we remember that we did not reason our way to racial or gender equality; that was all there in Jesus and Paul (eg. Galatians 3:28). Homosexuality is a different issue from racism and sexism for Christians because it comes purely from libertarian rationalists and has no positive basis in the Bible. Whether or not the Bible clearly and definitively prohibits homosexuality, it certainly does not explicitly advocate freedom of sexuality as it does racial and gender equality. That is a massive hurdle for gay-rights activists that sets the issue well apart from racial and gender equality - a difference that is rarely acknowledged by the left when dealing with the church, and was ignored by Kellermann and Myers to the detriment of their case.


Major David B. Matthew writes from Havre de Grace, Maryland:

Your petition to have Secretary Rumsfeld resign is based on erroneous assumptions. As a Christian who happens to be a military intelligence officer who has served with organizations related to the investigation of abuse, I can tell you that there was no command policy to abuse prisoners. I have found that soldiers, when left leaderless, often fall into types of behavior that are immoral and unjustified. The most troubling aspect of the abuse, after the abuse itself, is to see how little our congressional overseers know about our processes and command relationships, followed by how the media will latch on to any bizarre theory before analyzing the obvious and simplest explanation.

The fact that memos were prepared and ideas kicked around informally at high levels is one thing; translating them into command directives at the tactical level is quite another. What the guards did was a classic leadership failure. Their officers failed them, and failed us all by negligence and lack of supervision. All of the above is why so many of us in the military, including many Christians, have completely written off the social left and the media. In our minds they are just wholly discredited.


DeEtte Wald Beghtol writes from Kitwe, Zambia:

Thank you, Sojourners, for your courage to include Ched Meyer's article about same-sex marriages and a link to his Web site. I know you will get a lot of criticism for that move, but there are many of us who appreciate it.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: . We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

Donate now to support our work.

David Batstone Executive Editor
Ryan Beiler Web Editor
Molly Marsh Associate Editor
Lester Wall Advertising Director
Bob Sabath Chief Technologist
Tucker Ball Publisher

SojournersT 202.328.8842
2401 15th Street NWF 202.328.8757
Washington, DC 20009
For more information, e-mail

Copyright (c) 2004 Sojourners. All Rights Reserved.
SojoMail material may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution:
Source: Sojourners 2004 (c)

Browse | Search

Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your address. Read our privacy policy.

If this SojoMail was forwarded to you, click here for your free subscription.